Presidential candidates clash over social policies and gender issues in latest televised debate

SEOUL, March 2 (Yonhap) — The four main presidential candidates clashed on a range of social issues on Wednesday, including social programs and gender issues, as they tried to woo voters during their their last televised debate before the March 9 election.

The two-hour debate featured Lee Jae-myung from the ruling Democratic Party, Yoon Suk-yeol from the main opposition People’s Power Party, Ahn Cheol-soo from the centrist People’s Party and Sim Sang-jeung from the Progressive Party. of Justice.

During the debate, the two frontrunners initially objected to Lee’s basic income pledge that aims to give people 1 million won ($830) a year, which Yoon called unsustainable.

“It will cost 50 trillion won a year to provide universal welfare with money, and if taxes are raised to fund the program, it will reduce business activities and hinder growth,” Yoon said. . “You cannot expect a sustainable virtuous cycle of growth and well-being.”

Lee defended his brand policy, saying universal income is also mentioned in the PPP’s main policy. The former Gyeonggi governor also pointed out that his welfare programs could be funded without raising taxes.

“We can prepare for it sufficiently by managing the source of tax revenue, such as restructuring tax expenditures, closing tax loopholes, as well as taking into account a natural increase (in budget financing),” he said. declared.

Lee and Yoon also clashed over COVID-19 relief grants, with Lee explaining why the PPP has shifted positions from time to time, and Yoon saying his side has been consistent throughout.

Both Ahn and Sim questioned the funding plans of the two main contenders. Ahn suggested he would focus more on removing welfare blind spots, while Sim said she would pursue welfare programs with tax hikes and ask wealthier people to share the burden.

Regarding their solutions to population decline, Lee said he would tackle the problem by expanding opportunities for young people with sustainable economic growth.

Yoon called for strengthening the structure of the country’s competitive society before thinking about support measures.

Later, the two leading candidates also exchanged words on gender issues, with Lee criticizing Yoon’s pledge to abolish the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family.

Yoon responded that gender issues should not be addressed with the concept of equal rights for both genders dividing groups.

The two also argued over the definition of feminism, with Yoon saying he thinks it’s part of humanism, and Lee saying it’s a campaign to correct women’s discrimination and inequality.

Wednesday’s debate was the third and final hosted by the National Election Commission, the state’s election watchdog.

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